Posts Tagged Hamas

Did the left give up on Israel or did Israel give up on the left?

I hear a lot of talk from the Zionist left and right about the abysmal state of the Israeli left. Take, for example, this report by Elisheva Goldberg on the recent Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) march in Tel Aviv:

The Israeli Left’s Identity Issues – The Daily Beast.

The trouble is this: when “leftism” becomes an identity element, it makes leftist politics involuntary. It turns marching with ACRI from a political act of free will into a necessary expression of self. It turns human rights activism from a fight for political victory into a fight for acknowledgement and recognition. And—most crucially—it turns the left from a movement of social change into a group of people who love each other, but have given up on winning and instead are just doing their best to preserve their community. Ella’s last comment to me was that “we need to feel that we’re part of something so that we can get up and go to work every day.” These ACRI marchers feel they’ve lost—and so they have. They’ve decided they’re content just to feel loved and appreciated by each other—and so they will be.

There are plenty of explanations for this from both sides.

Ask someone from the right, and they will tell you that the left’s policies failed — Israel withdrew from Lebanon and Hizballah fired rockets for 6 years until a brutal and bloody war; Israel withdrew from Gaza and Hamas took over and fired rockets for 6 years and counting, despite two brutal and bloody wars; Barak sat down with Arafat and made a generous offer and all we got in return was an intifada; Olmert sat down with Abbas and made another generous offer and we got nothing out of it; the Palestinians and Arabs continue to spread antisemitism in schoolbooks, on TV, and everywhere else; the Muslim Brotherhood is taking over the Middle East; they all hate us and they want to kill us like they did in the intifada, so  we need to be strong and defend our borders and prepare for the impending apocalypse by buying a camper-van and moving next to Ramallah so we can improve our security by burning down some Palestinian olive trees.

Ask someone from the left and you’ll hear all about how Israel’s continuing occupation of the Palestinians is eroding its moral character and transforming it into some kind of proto-fascist society — everyone goes to the army, and so militancy is being bred into the society; years of controlling the Palestinians and relating to them only as soldier to controlled society has led to them being seen not as humans, but as some kind of lesser creatures; the failure to halt the settlement enterprise has put Israel in permanent control of the West Bank and made the two-state solution impossible, meaning there is some kind of apartheid system in place; the religious-Zionist camp has become increasingly racist and has begun to have more influence over the secular right and over the haredim; Likud is being taken-over by Danny Danon and Moshe Feiglin, the Kahannists are the fastest-growing Knesset faction, they all hate us and want to kill us like they killed Rabin, so we may as well just give up and smoke pot in our run-down bauhaus apartment building in Tel Aviv while talking about how much smarter we are than everyone else and complaining that we don’t have jobs.

That’s not to say that there’s no merit in these theories. Maybe we can learn from both of them — for example, I don’t mind the idea of smoking pot near Ramallah and talking about how smart I am.

One thing that I do want to point out is that the two narratives are completely polarised in a way that is quite revealing of their respective mentalities: the Zionist left blame everything on the Israeli right and the Zionist right blame everything on the Arabs.

This annoys me, especially when I read things like this article by Peter Beinart, where he talks about how Obama has given up on Netanyahu without even mentioning that Obama may have also given up on Abbas — because it can’t be Abbas’ fault, the Israeli right is to blame for everything. Likewise for the many articles (I don’t have an example in front of me, but there’s no shortage) that keep talking about how much Israel just wants peace and it’s all the Arabs’ fault, as though the ruling party didn’t just preselect a lot of people who openly oppose a Palestinian state (the part about Danon and Feiglin taking over the Likud is true).

But anyway, that’s beside the point. I am going to posit another explanation for the state of affairs. We have a bad tendency in the Jewish community to think that we are the only ones affecting anything — when really, on a global scale, we are quite minor players. It’s probably some degree of internalised oppression resulting from antisemitic conspiracy theories, but that’s a different discussion.

A while ago, I read this piece on the geopolitics of Israel by George Friedman, which made a point that has stuck with me:

The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern | Stratfor.

Israel exists in three conditions. First, it can be a completely independent state. This condition occurs when there are no major imperial powers external to the region. We might call this the David model. Second, it can live as part of an imperial system — either as a subordinate ally, as a moderately autonomous entity or as a satrapy. In any case, it maintains its identity but loses room for independent maneuvering in foreign policy and potentially in domestic policy. We might call this the Persian model in its most beneficent form. Finally, Israel can be completely crushed — with mass deportations and migrations, with a complete loss of autonomy and minimal residual autonomy. We might call this the Babylonian model.

Israel is a small fish in a big pond, but is very strategically located and therefore will always be in someone’s interests to control. When great powers compete over Middle East hegemony (as they tend to do), Israel can either survive as a client state, or be subsumed.

Until fairly recently, Israel was a client of the Western secular left. At the moment, Israel is a client of the Christian right. Europe — dominated by the secular left — has been becoming increasingly anti-Israel for a variety of reasons (and correlated with a dramatic rise in antisemitism throughout the continent). The Western academic left has essentially fallen to the Edward Said mentality and now speaks about Israel as though it were the root cause of everything that is evil in this world. A similar attitude pervades the UN (which is essentially where the academic left go on secondment when they are tired of academia).

Meanwhile, support for Israel in the Christian right has never been stronger. The massive Evangelical population in the US has become fanatically pro-Israel. In response to the growing cultural tensions in Europe and the ‘unholy alliance’ between the secular left and the ultra-conservative Islamists, the European right has begun to shift strongly towards Israel. I often hear remarks in Australia that the conservative Christian right is more pro-Israel than the Jewish community, and I think there is genuinely some truth to that assessment.

What does this mean? Put simply, Israel needs to maintain itself as a client state in order to survive. It can no longer rely on the secular left for support as, in a fit of post-colonial guilt and profound ‘Orientalism’, the secular left has determined that since the Islamists were fighting against George Bush, and they don’t like George Bush, the Islamists must be ‘part of the global left‘. Never mind all that stuff about hanging the homosexuals, stoning adulterers, and killing the women in your family for ‘dishonourable’ behaviour. That part’s not important.

In other words, the Israeli right has huge support from the global right, and the Israeli left is being scorned by the global left. Given the dynamics of Israel, it is small wonder that the left is in disarray.

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Tel Aviv bus bombing kills chances for peace

**Update**

It seems that nobody has been killed, thank God. Also, it is not guaranteed that Hamas carried this out, but Hamas were definitely celebrating it. There are reports that Israel has stepped-up its airstrikes over Gaza and Hamas/PIJ have stepped-up rocket fire in response. Who saw that one coming?

Just to be clear: an anti-war rally in Tel Aviv was cancelled because of this bombing. Everyone in Israel who wanted to end the offensive has just lost their case. All of the Israeli peaceniks that I follow are as shocked and scared as everyone else. These attackers have essentially guaranteed that there is no end in sight to this war.

**Update** at least 21 injured. Police say it was a definite terrorist attack

Follow live blogs at these links:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/as-iaf-pounds-gaza-pm-meets-with-clinton-pledging-whatever-action-to-defend-israelis/
http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=291794
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/blast-hits-tel-aviv-bus-at-least-17-hurt-police-chasing-two-terror-suspects-1.479535

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There are breaking reports of a bus bomb in Tel Aviv, the first attack there since 2006. From what I can gather from Twitter and elsewhere, it was a female terrorist who threw a bomb onto the bus and then left the area. The police has arrested one suspect and are looking for another. There were over 10 injured, three critically. Luckily, the bus was mostly empty at the time.

Most importantly/disgustingly, Hamas is busy celebrating this as a ‘victory for Allah’ over the loudspeakers in Gaza. Celebratory gunfire heard throughout the strip.

This pretty much puts an end to any hope of a ceasefire agreement. What Hamas have just done is won themselves a long-protracted ground war.

Congratulations.

Explosion hits Tel Aviv bus, at least 10 wounded; police suspect terror attack – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

A bus exploded in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding at least 10 people, three of them seriously.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast on the No. 66 bus on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Henrietta Szold Streets, but Israel Police suspect it was a terror attack. Passersby were ordered to keep their distance from the scene.

Large police forces were deployed to the area, and opened a manhunt after two suspected terrorists. Eyewitnesses say they saw a person plant an explosive and run away. Al-Arabiya reported that at least one of the suspected terrorists was a woman.

“A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv. This was a terrorist attack. Most of the injured suffered only mild injuries,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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You think YOU have it bad? You should hear about ME! Or: why Israelis and Palestinians need to shut up and listen

What do you feel when you’re being shot at?

The answer may seem obvious, but in the scheme of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, it’s important. As everyone tries to ‘out-suffer’ everyone else and the stories of trauma in Gaza and in Southern Israel mount, people seem to be forgetting this basic truth: being shot at is fucking terrifying.

That’s right, being shot at is a very unpleasant experience. It means that the person on the other end of the trigger/rocket-launcher wants to kill you, and is trying to kill you. Of course, there is probably some context: perhaps that person has suffered immensely; perhaps they lost a sister or brother or son or daughter and they are venting their rage at the people that they blame; maybe you have had a much more comfortable life than they have – they have been living in constant squalor fear, while you have been able to life relatively normally, most of the time at least; maybe it’s not you they were shooting at, but the person next to you – you just happened to get caught in the crossfire.

All of this information is important, but when you’re being shot at, it’s an academic point really. No amount of context will make you think ‘ok, well fair enough, I guess it’s not really their fault that they’re shooting at me’. It seems ridiculous to say, but the way people talk, you’d think that was the natural reaction that most people have. Abstract discussions of ‘necessity’ and ‘proportionality’ do not make you forgive the fact that you and your loved ones are being shot at. All that you really have in your head at that moment is ‘fuck, I’m being shot at’.

Here is something that everyone needs to bear in mind as they try to take the mantle of ‘suffering’ and claim the moral high ground in the current Gaza incursion: Israelis and Palestinians are shooting at each other. It’s that simple.

Well, it isn’t that simple. There is a lot to be said about the fact that Hamas is shooting at the Israelis to inflict terror and the Israelis are shooting at Hamas to try and stop Hamas shooting at the Israelis. But then, the Israelis inflict terror in spite of themselves. Shooting at people will do that. Whatever you want to say about Hamas launching rockets from civilian areas, it makes very little difference to the people who are on the ‘business end’ of the response. All they know is that they were not firing rockets from civilian areas, but they are being shot at.

Then again, that makes no difference to the Israelis in Hamas’ ever-expanding rocket range. The fact that they are being targeted with much less powerful weapons and that they have bomb shelters to run and hide to does not make the fact that they are being shot at less traumatic. All of those things are true, and they are losing less loved ones than the Palestinians in Gaza, but they are being shot at, and being shot at is fucking terrifying.

I have, over the course of my relatively brief time in Israel, had to take shelter from Hamas rockets twice and had rocks thrown at me once. That’s a hell of a lot less than most of the people in Israel at the moment, but when those incidents happened, I was not thinking about how terrible life must be for the Palestinians who were attacking me. My thoughts were more along the lines of: ‘fuck, I’m being shot at!’

I am writing this post because I have been sitting at my computer screen for almost a week now, watching two Sides of the Conflict trying to out-do each other in terms of being shot at. And in all honesty, the Palestinians win hands-down. The big Israeli infographics with numbers of rockets are not quite as pity-inspiring as footage of families grieving over dead children. But, once again, that is beside the point. In fact, what is really going through my mind is: what is the point? Why is it so important to have suffered? Why are we holding up spent rockets and dead and injured children to the world and saying ‘you need to feel sorry for me, I’m being shot at!’?

And more importantly, why am I the only one who seems to be affected by all of it and see two different groups of people being shot at? Why do I have to put up with so many people saying ‘you think the ISRAELIS are suffering? Do you know how many people died in Gaza today?’ or ‘you think the PALESTINIANS are suffering? Do you know how many rockets were fired into Israel today?’

Why can they not both be suffering? What’s so hard about recognising that the war is hell on everyone?

I can tell you this: there are two traumatised and terrified peoples firing at each other over the Israel/Gaza border fence right now, they are both going through hell, and neither of them will ever stop so long as they keep pretending that THEIR people are the ones that are REALLY suffering. Just shut up for a second and pay attention to the world outside your little bubble.

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Wow, that leader of Hamas’ militia sounds like a real stand-up guy

I’m sure that, by now, everyone has heard about this bullshit going on in Gaza. This is one of those rare situations when I say that I hate to say ‘I told you so‘ and I actually mean it.

Meanwhile, you know that ‘Ahmed Jabari’ guy that Israel just rocketed into oblivion? You know, this guy:

Well according to my old friend and sparring partner Liam, when he wasn’t busy launching rockets at Israel, or procuring rockets to launch at Israel, or calling for the ‘rats’ to be driven out of Israel (by which he meant the Israelis), he was actually ‘Israel’s biggest ally in negotiations with Hamas’.

Initial thoughts on “Operation Pillar of Defense” – Liam Getreu.

The guy was probably Israel’s biggest ally in negotiations with Hamas — ceasefires, returns of soldiers, etc. (Oh, wait, I thought Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas?) Yeah, he was a horrible terrorist, but so were plenty of other people that Israel talked to, and indeed became prominent Israelis themselves. I’m all for getting the bad guys — but choosing them should be done more carefully, and strategically.

Liam based his conclusions on something Gershon Baskin said:

The Israeli….

The Israeli decision to kill Ahmed Jaabri was total insanity. Jaabri was behind enforcing all of the recent ceasefire agreements. He sent his troops out to stop the rockets and was prepared to reach a long term ceasefire. Jaabri was also the main interlocutor of the Egyptian intelligence service in reaching ceasefire understandings. Now who are they supposed to talk to? Who can expect the Egyptians to continue to mitigate our relationship with Gaza? Now the government and people of Israel will face a massive barrage of rockets and they bought the entrance card to Cast Lead II.

Aluf Benn is also in on the party, referring to Jabari as Israel’s ‘subcontractor in Gaza‘.

Now I’m not saying that it’s typical of Liam not to fact-check things that sound a little implausible but kind of fit into his general narrative that the Israelis never do anything right. I wouldn’t say that. Not that I really understand what’s so appealing about the idea that Israel took out the best friend it had in Gaza other than some kind of perverse combination of vindication and schaudenfreude.

But what I am saying is that Liam didn’t fact-check.

For one thing, none of those ceasefires were really ‘enforced’. If they had been enforced, there would not have been ceasefires, there would have been a ceasefire. Maybe he did clamp-down on non-Hamas militias a little, but there are other things that he didn’t do – like not give them weapons, or not prevent them from firing at all. In fact, I don’t really see the fact that he clamped-down on non-Hamas armed groups as particularly endearing – one of the groups he completely drove out of Gaza was Fatah. That wasn’t about helping Israel, it was about holding onto power.

Meanwhile, it is true that Gershon Baskin was negotiating with Jabari… through Baskin’s Palestinian Christian colleague Hanna Siniora, who was speaking to Hamas Deputy Foreign Minister Razi Hamed, who was speaking to Jabari. It is also true that he secured the Shalit deal, and that he kept Shalit alive and relatively unharmed – if a little malnourished and isolated, as well as and completely sun-deprived and denied his basic as a prisoner, let alone a prisoner of war – although he wouldn’t release him without Israel releasing a few hundred mass murderers and a thousand other Palestinian prisoners.

So this, apparently, makes him Israel’s best buddy in Gaza? Well as they say, with friends like these…

But in all seriousness, the argument that Liam/Baskin/Benn put forward is pretty much like those people who want Bashar Assad to stay-on in Syria because ‘better then enemy you know than the enemy you don’t’. I reject that idea completely. The enemy we knew was terrible. I have no doubt that the next Qassam Brigades commander will not exactly be a saint, but he might be less competent than Jabari and he will definitely be less experienced (and he will also definitely be a ‘he’, as an aside).

Either way, I feel like Liam is jumping to conclusions a little by condemning the strategic expertise of the Israeli government and intelligence agencies based on one journalist’s Facebook status. But that’s just me I guess.

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Gaza: if the current strategy isn’t working that well, why not try something stupid?

 

Israel has been hit with hundreds of rockets over the past couple of weeks. There is nothing new about this — Israel has been hit with thousands upon thousands of rockets for the past decade or so — except that the situation is becoming untenable.  The people of southern Israel are tired of living in bomb shelters, periodically closing schools, and having to make a decision every night about whether or not it’s safe to sleep in the second story of their homes and put the bomb shelter too far away to reach should a rocket land overnight.

Before anyone says anything, I am not trying to downplay what the Palestinians in Gaza are going through. I am trying to explain how Israelis are feeling and how they are thinking. Whatever else may be said about the rocket fire, it is not ‘harmless’ at all, it is terrifying for the people who have to live through it on a daily basis. The casualty rate is low only because of the insane precautions that the population has to go through, but being under constant threat is no way for 1/5 of the country to live.

The entire Israeli public are demanding that something be done. This crosses any kind of partisan and factional lines that you could imagine. Even those who are generally in the peacenik camp have been amping-up their rhetoric. Holding an outstretched hand does not seem like a great idea when you’re being shot at. Wheat we are looking at, potentially, is a repeat of 2008/09’s Operation Cast-lead. It’s an outcome that nobody wants, but if it’s the only way to stop these attacks, it may be needed.

Well, there have been a couple of alternatives floated. Take Nervana Mahmoud, for example:

The End Of Deterrence – The Daily Beast.

Going to war, however, is not the only option. There is potential for a political out, as some analysts advocate, including Khalid Elgindy of Brookings. A smart move would address both elements of the problem: the lack of a state that Israel can deal with and the non-state players. The solution for Gaza is two-fold, a conditional acceptance of Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. bid in return for demanding that the Egyptians reinstate the U.N.-recognized Abbas government in Gaza and empower his security team to run the Rafah border. In addition, Israel announces its willingness to engage with the emerging Sunni alliance—Turkey, Qatar, and Egypt—to formulate a plan to dismantle Gaza militants’ military capabilities in return for lifting the siege. Such a gambit could snooker Hamas supporters into either accepting the deal, offering alternatives, or a rejection, which would make them appear to be the opponents of a political solution.

Clearly, among the different schools of foreign policy, Mahmoud falls into the ‘remedial class’. Let’s break this down item-by-item. First, Mahmoud wants Israel to offer to the Egyptians — who are led by the Muslim Brotherhood, let me remind you — that Israel will provisionally accept a UN bid that Egypt has not really expressed much investment in, in return for Egypt forcibly expelling the MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD-offshoot Hamas regime and instead installing a secular-nationalist Palestinian regime led by corrupt officials whose relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood could be best described as ‘sworn enemies who have been killing each other for years’. Do I have that right? Just checking we’re on the same page.

And then part two of this genius plan is for Israel to show that it is ‘willing to engage’ with Egypt, Turkey and Qatar. That would be the Egypt that has just decided to stop supplying Israel with natural gas, the Turkey that has just suspended all formal relations with Israel, and the Qatar that never had formal relations with Israel. Leaving Qatar to one side for a second, Mahmoud is suggesting that Israel engage with its two former allies, both of which have become increasingly belligerent towards Israel as a result of Islamist parties taking over.

Right.

I like this idea better:

State of Gaza – JPost – Opinion – Editorials.

Today, Hamas functions as the official political leadership of the entire Gaza Strip. The party sets both domestic policies – such as the institution of Shari’a law – and foreign policy. Just last month, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh represented the entire Gaza population when he welcomed the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. And the emir effectively recognized Hamas as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians living in Gaza.

Recognizing Hamas as responsible for what happens inside Gaza – which has clear geographical borders – would serve Israel’s interests. Instead of struggling to distinguish among a myriad of players – Hamas, Salafis and international jihad-affiliated terrorist groups, as well as the Gaza civilian population – Israel should view the “state of Gaza” and its Hamas government as directly responsible for any act of aggression emanating from the territory under its control. Israel’s response to such attacks would, therefore, be directed against the territory of Gaza as a whole.

It makes no sense for Israel to provide an enemy state with electricity, fuel and other goods as it currently does. This makes sense only if a fabricated distinction is made between those in Gaza who fire at Israel and the wider “innocent” population. In reality, however, the majority of Gaza’s population continues to support Hamas, which rules the entire Gaza Strip domestically and represents it internationally.

In contrast, if Hamas provides stability and prevents smaller terrorist groups operating inside Gaza from firing on Israeli civilians, Israel could reciprocate by providing fuel and electricity and keeping trade borders open.

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Ivory tower watch: collective responsibility and saying ‘yes’ to racism

A lot of people were very upset when evidence emerged of American war crimes in Iraq. The particular images that will always stand out are the photos taken of torture at Abu Ghraib, but there were several other incidents of massacres and, generally, soldiers not behaving as they are supposed to.

But what if these crimes were not only the fault of the people who committed them, or even the commanders who may have been negligent in not preventing them? What if every single competent adult American was in some way responsible for the massacre in Fallujah?

If that sounds familiar, or kind of like something you may have heard from violent Islamists, you would be right. Al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups often talk about the ‘Zio-Crusader alliance’ that they are fighting — which essentially means that every single Western person is attacking Islam and therefore they are all legitimate targets for retaliation. It is that attitude which led to the recent riots in Sydney — the idea that any Australian authority figure can be held responsible for acts committed by the American army overseas, because they are part of the same ‘people’ — or something.

Well, it is not only al-Qaeda that prescribes to this kind of thinking — apparently it is shared by the odd Ivy League professor. In ‘Citizen Responsibility and the Reactive Attitudes‘, Amy J Sepinwall from the University of Pennsylvania sets out to show that all Americans share some blame for war crimes in Iraq (although she does distinguish herself from Islamists by saying that it’s a matter of degree. I’m convinced…).

Her basic argument relies on the idea of citizen’s responsibility. She illustrates this through the following analogies (my bold):

Consider the marital union, for example. Individuals in a marriage must act with a certain regard for their union. While exit is a real option, each nonetheless bears an obligation to the other to put the possibility of exit out of his or her mind, at least while less disruptive options exist. And, each is obligated to the other to present a united front to the world, for maligning one’s spouse to others would degrade the union and violate marital trust.

Similarly, individuals in a joint business partnership must each also operate with a certain regard for the joint venture, and commit themselves to working out the kinks of the operation before contemplating dissolution. And, where one partner is empowered to, say, manage the partnership’s business, the other partner may not publicly disparage the result, and disavow responsibility for it. To do so would be to make a fool of the producing partner, and to exhibit a reproachable lack of loyalty.

… some amount of fidelity follows from membership in the nation-state, as well. Thus, with appropriate adjustments for strength of commitment to the nationstate, we may transpose the foregoing observations to the context of the   citizen’s responsibility for American atrocities committed in the course of the war in Iraq. The citizen harbors a commitment to the nation-state and that commitment obligates him in special ways to his fellow citizens. Most relevant here, his commitment entails that he may not step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions; instead, he must stand in judgment with his fellow citizens, in recognition that the nation-state is his as well as theirs. To do otherwise is to denigrate the shared venture; it is to demonstrate a solipsism incompatible with citizenship.

Do you see the problem there?

To me, the most obvious one is that, in a liberal democracy, a citizen canin fact, ‘step outside the nation-state to point a finger in righteous indignation at his state’s transgressions’. I do it all the time.

That is not the only flaw in her logic. There is also the fact that business partners, spouses and citizens are not necessarily responsible for everything that their fellow partners, spouses, or citizens, do; and this applies especially when we are talking abut breaking the law.

If one partner embezzles money without the other knowing, the other is not responsible. If a wife is dealing drugs without her husband’s knowledge, he is not responsible. If a soldier breaks the law while on a tour of duty, the citizens of that country are not responsible. Responsibility can only come with some form of acquiescence — it only applies to people on whose behalf the person who committed the act was acting.

For a nation-state, that means that the state had to have been acting — ie the soldiers who committed war crimes must have done so on behalf of the state and, by proxy, its people. That was not the case at all in Iraq. The soldiers that committed war CRIMES were breaking the law — and that is American law, not just international law. Where it could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, they were tried and punished. Certainly the public officials involved were sanctioned — they lost their jobs, had their names disgraced and faced public scorn and derision. How exactly can we then hold all Americans responsible?

Well, there’s the fact that Americans have no right to decide their own guilt when there’s another ‘rational’ explanation. Using the example of a person who was opposed to the war (‘the dissident’), Sepinwall explains that, really, it’s all a matter of perspective (my bold):

The dissident believes that her resistance cancels out whatever responsibility she should come to bear in virtue of her commitment to the United States as a whole. She has  arrived at this self-judgment because she has synthesized the dimension of her identity that flows from her citizenship and the dimension of her identity that flows from her dissidence and arrived at a coherent conception of herself in which her dissidence is much more definitive of who she is. But though each of us is empowered to perform this synthesis and arrive at a self-understanding that makes sense of the disparate and sometimes conflicting strands of our identity, none of us is entitled to have others conceive of us as we conceive of ourselves. In particular, the dissident cannot legitimately expect that her self-understanding will govern the Iraqi’s conception of her; he is entitled to believe that citizenship looms larger as a constituent element of an American’s (or anyone’s) identity than do acts opposing the policies or practices of one’s government. And, so long as he does hold this belief, he will harbor resentment toward the American citizen, no matter how valiant her efforts at resistance.

To inhabit the dissident’s perspective on America and herself, the Iraqi must abandon a stance of righteous anger through which he might seek to vindicate the worth of his lost loved one, or the Iraqi people as a whole. He must instead contend with the notion that he cannot find an outlet in blame for his loss and injury that corresponds sufficiently to their (perceived) magnitude. He would then incur not just the pain of his tragedy but the profound burden of self-restraint in stifling his own sense of the injury and deferring to that of one of his (apparent) injurers. Should we really reproach him for spurning this path? Given the additional pain of forbearance, is he not entitled to presume the legitimacy of his own perspective, and proceed with resentment?

No, he is not entitled to do that. Know why? Well, let’s apply the same theory, just to a slightly different scenario.

Say, for instance, a group of Lebanese Muslims were to viscously gang-rape a white Australian woman while making remarks like ‘how does it feel to do it Leb-style?’ and otherwise making it clear that they are identifying with the community of Lebanese Muslims in Australia and claim to be acting on behalf of that community. Would a relative of the victim not be entitled to feel a little resentment against Lebanese Muslims and not just the individual perpetrators? Isn’t there some degree of shared responsibility by the Lebanese Muslim community?

Say that a little while later, a group of Lebanese Muslims then attacked some lifeguards — the embodiment of Aussie pride. Are white Australians not entitled to a little resentment?

Well, you see, that happened. The ‘white’ community did feel resentment towards Lebanese Muslims as a result, and then that lead to the whole Cronulla Riots incident in 2005. I would be willing to bet that Ms Sepinwall would not see that as justified, but perhaps it is just a matter of degree. Perhaps indignation and resentment would have been justified, without going on a race-riot.

Like, say, the indignation and resentment that many victims of crime committed by Aboriginal Australians feel towards Aboriginals as a whole. The kind of indignation and resentment that results in this disadvantaged group being shut-out from jobs, routinely harassed by police, and far more likely than any other group to be imprisoned. Sounds justifiable, no?

Or perhaps Ms Sepinwall did not really think through the consequences of allowing a victim to hold not only the perpetrator responsible, but the entire nation to which the perpetrator belongs. That kind of collectivism is what leads to racism and terrorism. It is not OK.

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Ivory tower watch: sure you hate the homosexuals, but if you kill Americans you are in the ‘global left’

Pro-BDS, ‘post-structuralist’ academic Judith Butler has controversially been given some German award that nobody had heard of until they decided to give it to her. But apparently is a big deal in the city of Frankfurt.

I, for one, am completely indifferent outraged!

Well, when I say ‘for one’, what I mean is ‘as one of many’. This incident seems to have sparked a bombardment of Frankfurt the likes of which have not been seen since… the Allies dropped 12,197 tons of explosives on the city in the World War II (more like: World War TOO soon).

Anyway, as Kenan Malik explains, Butler is known less for supporting BDS and more for her godawful writing, which is almost impossible to understand and, for those who have the patience to get their heads around it, says nothing very interesting anyway.

Oh, and there was also this little doozy that seems to have been brought-up a fair bit during said bombardment of Frankfurt:

Benjamin Weinthal and Richard Landes: The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler – WSJ.com.

Participating in an “Anti-War Teach-In” at Berkeley in 2006, Ms. Butler answered a question about Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s place “in the global left.” These are two of the most belligerent movements within the warmongering, anti-Semitic, homophobic and misogynistic world of Islamist jihad. Yet while criticizing violence and “certain dimensions of both movements,” Ms. Butler told the students that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important.”

And there we go: exactly what I’ve been complaining about all this time! This is a self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ claiming two groups to her cause that are not merely conservative, but are actually bent on returning to a 7th Century society in which homosexuals were hung, adulterers were stoned to death and women were neither seen nor heard unless they were being beaten or raped, in which case it was probably their fault and they may be liable for death by stoning since they did technically commit adultery while they were being raped.

Oh and that’s not to mention the whole ‘driving the Jews into the ocean’ thing. Or the part about going to heaven for killing a Jew.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty damn progressive to me. Lucky we have people on the global left to fight against injustice by firing rockets towards civilian areas and hoping to hit something.

*sigh*

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The Middle East trust deficit

Don’t you love it when someone succinctly puts exactly what you feel? Gershon Baskin using the “both sides” equivalency, but being right:

Encountering Peace: Q&A on the fu… JPost – Opinion – Columnists.

Q: The Palestinians breached every agreement they ever signed with Israel, how can we trust them?

A: Israel and the PLO, representing the Palestinian people, signed five agreements. Every one of those agreements was breached by both sides. Neither side fulfilled its obligations, and the breaches were substantive in all of the agreements.

…Breaches upon breaches piled up and created a total breakdown. The failure of both sides to implement in good faith and to repair the damage in real time led to a total collapse of trust between the parties. The basic idea of an interim period (of five years) was to develop the trust that would be required to negotiate the main issues in conflict.

That trust never developed – quite the opposite. Today, objectively speaking, there is absolutely no reason why Israel and Palestine should trust each other – they have completely earned the mistrust that exists between them.

… There is no possibility for progress without negotiations, yet while both sides recognize this truth it seems that the complete absence of trust, what I call the “trust deficiency,” is more powerful than the desire to reach an agreement at this time. This is enhanced by the complete belief on both sides of the conflict that there is no partner for peace on the other side. Both sides say that they want peace, and both sides blame the other for lack of any progress.

Yup, that’s pretty much the situation. Abbas doesn’t trust Bibi; Bibi doesn’t trust Abbas; neither of them trust Obama; Obama is sick of them both; Obama, Abbas and Bibi all don’t trust Hamas and Hamas’ leaders don’t even trust each other, let alone anyone else.

The Israelis don’t trust the Palestinians because Israeli concessions are just met with violence and condemnations; the Palestinians don’t trust the Israelis because no one in Israel can agree on anything and the same government seems to have 5 different policies; the Palestinians don’t trust each other because every second person is an informant for Israel or secretly working for whichever of Hamas/Fatah the first person is worried about; the Jordanians don’t trust the Palestinians because Arafat tried to overthrow King Hussein in the ’70s; the secular Egyptians don’t trust the Palestinians because Hamas is too close to the Muslim Brotherhood; the Israelis don’t trust the Egyptians because they think they’re all Muslim Brotherhood; The Muslim Brotherhood don’t trust Fatah because they’re against Hamas…

I’m going to stop here, you get the picture. Anyone see a way out?

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Human Rights Watch and letting Muslim states have the rulers they want but don’t deserve

A whole long list of NGO officials have come out in criticism of Human Rights Watch and its CEO Kenneth Roth, slamming Roth for his hypocrisy in supporting Islamist regimes that are serial abusers of human rights. As usual, my bold:

Women and Islam: A Debate with Human Rights Watch | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the Holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

A side note, but the term “sharia law” is a tautology – Sharia means “Islamic law”.

Meanwhile, the parts in bold are very important. All across the Muslim world, horrible acts like honour killings become the norm not necessarily because they are official state policy, but because regimes will publicly condemn these acts whenever they are criticised while not actually taking any steps to prevent them.

In fact, they often condemn with one arm while encouraging with the other – as the letter above pointed out.  Qaradawi is not a fringe radical, he is a celebrity cleric with his own show on Al Jazeera Arabic and one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood; yet he encourages violence, terror and intolerance with impunity.

This is another example of the “third-worldism” that I wrote about recently. HRW are refusing to listen to the Muslim Brotherhood when they say that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, Jews are a plague on humanity and should all be killed, Christians should be expelled from Egypt and women should be not seen and most definitely not heard. All it takes is for Muslim Brotherhood members to say “we are committed to the rights of women” and HRW believes that they must be “moderate”. Remember that the “rights” that they speak of are not what our Western minds think when we hear “women’s rights”.

HRW replies

The HRW response is also very revealing:

In the introduction to Human Rights Watch’s most recent World Report, released on January 22, Kenneth Roth wrote that Western governments cannot credibly maintain a commitment to democracy if they reject electoral results when an Islamic party does well. That was the hypocritical stance of the West when, for example, it acquiesced in the Algerian military’s interruption of free elections that the Islamist Salvation Front was poised to win and then in the brutal suppression of that party in the early 1990s, or when President George W. Bush cut short his “democracy agenda” after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and the Muslim Brotherhood did better than expected in Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005.

Western governments should reject this inconsistent and unprincipled approach to democracy. Human Rights Watch called on Western governments to come to terms with the rise of Islamic political parties and press them to respect rights. As rights activists, we are acutely aware of the possible tension between the right to choose one’s leaders and the rights of potentially disfavored groups such as women, gays and lesbians, and religious minorities. Anyone familiar with the history of Iran or Afghanistan knows the serious risks involved. However, in the two Arab Spring nations that have had free and fair elections so far, a solid majority voted for socially conservative political parties in Egypt, and a solid plurality did so in Tunisia. The sole democratic option is to accept the results of those elections and to press the governments that emerge to respect the rights of all rather than to ostracize these governments from the outset.

Notice that they pulled the “Bush card”. This is an argument reminiscent of the Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy, a corollary of Godwin’s Law, whereby anything that George W Bush did is considered to be wrong by virtue of the fact that he did it. It’s an argument used by the kind of idiots who genuinely think Bush was comparable to Hitler, not to mention the kind of idiots who would assume that something must be bad just because someone they don’t like did it. That said, Bush was wrong – HRW just don’t understand why.

Bush was not wrong to reject Hamas after they were elected, he was wrong to let them stand for election in the first place. Hamas was always very open about what it was: an organisation that opposed democracy, advocated Medieval morality, called for genocide and committed violence – hell, you can learn all that by just watching their TV channel:

What Bush and HRW do not understand is that the mere fact that a government is “elected” does not make a for a democracy. This is a historical fact that actually can be proven by a Hitler comparison: the Nazis were elected into power in Germany. A measure of whether a government is democratic is not how it comes into power initially, but how it stays in power.

Elections are the last step in forming a democracy, not the first. The single most important component of a democracy is the rule of law – the rulers must be under the law, there must be some kind of peaceful mechanism for removing them from office. In order for that to happen, the society needs a separation of powers – the rulers must be accountable to the legal system and not the other way around; the use of physical force (i.e. army and police) must be separate from both. There also has to be some kind of mechanism for the legal system to find information about the rulers’ activities to see if they must be removed from power and the rulers must be unable to stop this information from getting out: you need freedom of political communication.

Even a society with: the rule of law; free speech; and an independent judiciary, army and government; is not ready for popular elections. For the people to elect their leaders, they need to be informed enough about the different options to make a decision; there needs to be a well-established media and at least two realistic options to vote for who can scrutinise each other, otherwise any election will automatically go to whoever has the most widespread networks (i.e. the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood).

Also, it is perfectly acceptable to exclude parties who are openly anti-democratic. Israel has banned “Jewish terrorist” Meir Kahane’s party from running in the Knesset for that exact reason.

Finally, the most important thing to realise is that democracy does not happen overnight. Rushing into elections is stupid, it will only put revolutionaries into power and if there is anything to be learned from post-colonial Africa, it’s that revolutionaries do not generally make great rulers.

Let Islamists be Islamists and treat them like Islamists

Tragically, while HRW are (I believe genuinely) trying to avoid imposing Western morality onto the Arab people, they are in fact doing something arguably worse. Rather than openly trying to change Arab societies into something resembling Western ones, they are approaching the Arab peoples with an entirely Western mindset and just treating them as though they are Western, no matter how much they themselves reject Western values. This attitude is extremely destructive, it will result in more Afghanistans and less Indonesias.

We must be honest with ourselves and we must be willing to take Arab parties at their word. We want an Egypt that does not oppress women, homosexuals, Jews and Christians; we want an Egypt with democratic institutions where people are not persecuted for anti-government or “un-Islamic” activities. The Muslim Brotherhood do not want this Egypt and they say that openly – why do we refuse to believe them?

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If peace is dying, maybe it needs palliative care?

In a recent profile by Brian Bethune, “rockstar doctor” David Agus argued that the medical world has been fighting cancer the wrong way. Rather than looking for the “cure” for cancer, he believes that the best outcome for patients would be to concentrate on “managing” cancer – prolonging life and reducing the effects of its symptoms.

The end of illness? – Health – Macleans.ca.

We need to admit our mistakes and radically reorient ourselves, Agus says. In chorus with a growing number of chronic disease specialists, Agus thinks it’s time to forget the lessons erroneously drawn from the victorious war against infectious diseases, time to realize chronic illness is different. It is not discrete parts that can be targeted with drugs or surgery like a colony of alien bacteria, but the whole system. Cancer is a verb, he repeatedly and strikingly stresses: the body of a leukemia patient is “cancering.”

And with most types of cancer, we are scarcely likely to win a war, not if victory is defined as a complete cure. But if we look at the body as a system, with a few simple lifestyle changes, plus new technologies already in the pipeline, three inexpensive medicines, and a change in the way we store and share medical information, we can achieve a different sort of victory: prevention, delay, control. The end of cancer, the end of all illness, Agus says, is in sight.

(Note: my doctor friend tells me that Agus’ opinion is not quite as controversial or groundbreaking as Bethune made it out to be.)

On a tangentially related note (bear with me for a second), Ari Shavit wrote an op-ed in Haaretz last week, making a compelling case for the fact that we will not see an Israeli/Palestinian peace deal for at least a decade.

A new peace is needed – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Now the old peace is dead. Really dead. The Islamic revolution in Egypt has removed the southern anchor of that promised peace. The murderous oppression in Syria has neutralized its northern guarantor, and the gradually warming relationship between Fatah and Hamas eliminates its central axis.

Anyone who observes the reality that has emerged around us now understands what was not fully understood a year ago: That the Arab awakening has killed the diplomatic process. In the coming years, no moderate Arab leader will have enough legitimacy or power to sign a peace agreement with Israel. What we’ve yearned for since 1967 and what we believed in since 1993 simply isn’t going to happen. Not now, and not in this decade.

Even aside from the many points Shavit raised, a peace deal is not going to happen any time soon. The Palestinian leadership seems irreparably divided and even Hamas seems to be fracturing. A divided people, some of whom are still committed to violence, cannot make peace or even have a state. Political science 101: a state requires monopoly on use of force. The Palestinians do not have that.

Shavit’s solution is what he calls a “new peace”:

… a peace that won’t be imminent, but gradual. A peace that won’t be final, but partial. A peace that will not necessarily be based on signed agreements. A peace that will learn lessons from the death the old peace and will adapt itself to a new, stormy, historic reality.

This new peace won’t be the peace of our dreams. It won’t be the peace that puts an end to the conflict. It will not even be a peace that ends the occupation.

But perhaps this new, modest peace will enable us to forge a path through the storm, to manage the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and somewhat abate it.

Walter Russel Mead expands on this idea:

Pulling the Plug on the Peace Process? | Via Meadia.

The US and other outside powers have almost always been more enthusiastic about the peace process than either the Israelis or the Palestinians.  Israelis aren’t sure they can trust the Palestinians to keep the peace once they have returned all the land and recognized a new state; the Palestinians don’t want to make the concessions (like giving up the ‘right of return’) that peace requires. We end up bribing and cajoling both sides to take part in a process that in many ways serves our interests more than it does theirs.

… To argue against sinking more and more political capital into this increasingly quixotic quest was to be “against peace.” But in fact, it is those who push deeply unrealistic solutions to real problems who raise expectations, fail fantastically, stoke discontent and cynicism, and prevent progress on the ground. Shavit’s prescription for a more modest and realistic approach is part of the answer.

But we need to do more. Newt Gingrich and others to the contrary, the Palestinians are a real people. Palestinian nationalism may not be hundreds of years old; indeed it was formed in part by the experiences of Palestinians in the Arab-Israeli conflict — including the cynical use and abandonment of the Palestinians by other Arabs. The Palestinians are a fact and their feelings matter.

The time may not be ripe for a peace agreement, and conditions may be too adverse for a meaningful peace process to survive. But there is much to be done to reduce the suffering on both sides that the unresolved conflict entails. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians remains an important American interest; preparing the foundations for a peace that offers both peoples a road to a more secure, prosperous and dignified future comports with our values as well as our interests.

Keeping the old peace process on life support looks less and less like the best way to promote that enduring interest. It’s time to rethink our approach from the ground up.

As usual, Mead hit the nail on the head. Did you see the link to the Agus part at the beginning?

The idea behind the “peace process” has always been to “cure” the conflict. Whatever plan was invented – the Oslo Accords, the Roadmap etc – was always premised on bringing the two sides together, negotiating and voilà! Peace. Hoever, despite 20 years of intermittent “peace talks”, The Israeli/Palestinian conflict has not gone anywhere.

Maybe it shouldn’t be treated as an infection, but a cancer. This is, to a large extent, what has been happening already in the West Bank. Security cooperation keeps the violence down and builds the Palestinians’ ability to self-govern, water cooperation improves the water shortage issue, Fayyad fights corruption and builds infrastructure and peace becomes a tiny bit closer.

If both sides were forced to stop challenging each other to make “bold concessions” and became obliged to make smaller gestures, a lot would have to change. Israel would no longer worry about ripping up settlements and displacing hundreds of thousands, but the Israelis would need to disincentivise living in settlements and start relocating citizens elsewhere. The Palestinian Authority would have to stop blaming Israel for everything, start cleaning up its ranks, allow free debate and public scrutiny of its institutions and, most importantly, end the incitement to violence of its population.

Well, maybe that’s too much to hope for, but it shouldn’t have to be (that’s what really needs to happen). Either way, in the long run all of these initiatives to magically create a resolution overnight seem to do more harm than good. Maybe its time to stop talking about peace tomorrow and start talking about improving the situation for everyone.

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